Discover woodlands of golden leaves and dazzling autumn colour across Sussex landscapes, some of them looked after by the National Trust
1 Petworth Park, Petworth
What better time of year than autumn to marvel at some of the oldest and largest trees in the country? Petworth Park is dotted with ancient gnarled specimens, including an oak that has survived here since the 12th century and still puts on a spectacular show of colour every year. With over 700 acres of parkland, you’ll be spoilt for choice for places to explore, but the Ancient Tree Walks trail will help you find some of the best spots to enjoy the autumnal display. If you visit in October or November, you might also get to see the annual deer rut, where the males compete for a mate. This four-mile mile walk takes around 1.5 hours to complete. Pictures top and above: National Trust/Chris Lacey.
2 Nymans, Staplefield Lane, Handcross
Enjoy glorious autumn colours reflected in the lake, and the bark of magnificent redwoods turned a deep orange in the low autumn sunlight on this downloadable trail. It begins with stunning views over the Weald towards the South Downs. The circular route is 2.5 miles, taking around an hour and a half to walk. Picture: National Trust/Chris Lacey.
3 Standen, West Hoathly Road, East Grinstead
Explore the historic woodland in autumn, meadows and ancient sandstone rock outcrops on this easy circular walk that takes in Weir Wood Reservoir, with views across to the Ashdown Forest and North Downs. It’s a two-mile walk, taking around an hour to complete. Picture: National Trust/Marianne Marjerus.
4 Slindon, near Arundel
Slindon is a historic village and the largest traditional estate in the South Downs. This circular walk takes you round the bank of a medieval deer park, called a pale, past an Early Stone Age raised beach and to the village’s famous display of pumpkins. Pop into the community shop and café in Slindon for lunch and some local produce. It’s an easy 1.8-mile walk, taking around an hour to walk. Picture: National Trust/John Miller.
5 Cuckmere Valley, between Eastbourne and Seaford
Follow the river meanders of the Cuckmere valley as it snakes down to the sea at Cuckmere Haven and return via Chyngton Farm, past wading birds on the shoreline. Glasswort grows on the saltmarsh and turns from bright green to scarlet in autumn, creating a carpet of colour at low tide. The four-mile walk takes about two hours to complete. Picture: National Trust/Nick Dautlich.
6 Borde Hill Garden
Beyond the garden of Borde Hill lies 200 acres of parkland and woodland in the High Weald. Warren Wood, which from 1905 was planted with a fine collection of Picea (spruces) and Pinus (pines) from China and Japan, hosts the rarely seen and elegant Himalayan Juniper (Juniperus rigida). Other conifers include Cupressus sempervirens, the Italian cypress and Pinus attenuata from South Oregon and California. The wood also houses some extremely rare broadleafs such as Malus, Prunus and Photinia. Further to the West is Stephanie’s Glade, which has many rare species of broadleafs (Robina, Ulmus, Juglans, Carya, Fraxinus, Tilia and Quercus) and is one of the most interesting walks at Borde Hill. To the South lies the South Park with lakes and parkland edged by many trees giving all-season colour, such as the Acer Briliantissima. Beyond the lakes is Stone Pits wood that has a wide range of Quercus and Acer and several champion Alders as well as as a small planting of very rare larch (Larix gmelinii). Open October 20-31.
Phone 01444 450326 or visit bordehill.co.uk.
7 Devil’s Dyke, near Brighton
Just north of Brighton is Devil’s Dyke, described by John Constable as the “grandest view in the world”. Explore ancient chalk downland and the deepest dry valley in the country and discover where the Devil and his wife are said to be buried while watching kestrels soar above you. Visit an ancient farmstead with more than 1,000 years of history and enjoy stunning views over the Sussex countryside. At Newtimber, the hills are covered in a purple haze of devil’s bit scabious when it flowers in autumn. Picture: National Trust/John Miller.
8 High Beeches Woodland & Water Garden, High Beeches Lane, Handcross
At High Beeches, the mature garden of 27 acres is listed Grade II* by English Heritage as an outstanding example of an early 20th century woodland garden. It was created in 1846 by Sir Robert Loder and the woodland was planted by his son Wilfred. Autumn is a time of breathtaking displays of colour among the best in the country, provided by the many spectacular Nyssas, Maples and Liquidambers growing throughout the garden and contrasting with the conifers. The beds of cyclamen glow in the autumn light. Open until October 31.
Phone 01444 400589 or visit highbeeches.com.